Thursday, July 31, 2008

Every once in a while I find a link to or just go by Balko's site,

and it usually turns up some things that really, REALLY piss me off, generally on matters of our minions of law enforcement and judges doing stupid and/or illegal and/or really useless crap. To wit:
TSA confiscating non-dangerous items because 'somebody might THINK it's dangerous.
'Consent' searches that usually turn up nothing except a disgusted/pissed off/discouraged citizen.
Judges being taught to help prosecutors in DUI cases.
Cops getting merit badges for a wrong-address raid.

TSA has developed a well-earned reputation for security theater, along with abusing their authority. Hell, for writing about this crap I may find myself on a list if I have to fly somewhere.

I've had a problem with 'consent searches' for a long time. An officer can make you sit at the side of the road for an unset period of time("I can require you to wait here until I can get a drug dog here to sniff your car, wouldn't it be simpler to just let me search?"), and they can be very heavy-handed in pressuring someone to say yes. Which leaves, in the case of a family, having to explain to the kids why they're supposed to have respect for the badge-wearer who just threatened their father or mother into letting them dig through the car.

Judges are supposed to be disinterested, not advocates. They're not supposed to be worried about 'establishing a tone', they're supposed to be concerned with the law. Period. But, as Steve once said, they're just lawyers; why would you think putting them in a black robe would make them a modern Solomon?

As to the last, any time it can be shown that a raid was launched on a wrong address, or on bad information, and the officers did not do something like, you know, investigate before strapping on the armor and subguns and heading in with the door-breaking tools, the officers should be financially liable for the damage they do, and prosecutable for harm done to the people involved. The judge who signed the no-knock warrant should prosecute the officers who asked for it if he finds out they lied, and if the judge knew it was bullcrap and signed the warrant anyway then he should be disbarred and, if possible, prosecuted.

Yeah, some of this would make the job harder for law enforcement. Right now, I don't care about that anymore. I'm sick of hearing about people's homes damaged and people hurt and dogs killed because of bullcrap raids, and the officers being patted on the head and excused no matter how badly they screwed up. Good cops are one of the blessings in life; bad ones are a curse.


RedneckInNY said...

Damn straight, Skippy!!!

Sean said...

Not disagreeing with your overall observation sir - but as a cop let me add, when done PROPERLY and LEGALLY, the consent search can be a valuable tool for us. No, that doesn't mean that you keep them there, pressure them or use threats - and I'm fortunate where I work to have judges who see through that crap and nip it in the bud when it starts - that is NOT a consensual encounter. But when asked simply, fairly, with the person free to leave & they say "no" and you call it a goodbye, it's just another tool.

And yes, even as a door-kicker at times, I am tired of agencies not researching their warrants, abusing the no-knock warrant privilege, and harming innocents in their zeal to look cool.

Just my two cents.

Firehand said...

That's the rub, as the saying goes: 'properly' and 'legally'. Just like the no-knock warrants. There are times they're truly called for, and in those cases "Heave-ho, me hearties, bring up the ram!"

Two of the things that piss me off about these are that it makes it that much harder for the good cops to get along with people("I heard what you did to John, that was disgraceful!"), and it'll wind up making it a lot harder to use the tools as they should be("Can you tell the court why, in light of what's on my desk, I should trust you on this?")